Brief interventions for obesity when patients are asked to pay for weight loss treatment: an observational study in primary care with an embedded randomised trial.
Tudor K., Jebb SA., Manoharan I., Aveyard P.
BACKGROUND: A brief intervention whereby GPs opportunistically facilitate an NHS-funded referral to a weight loss programme is clinically and cost-effective. AIM: To test the acceptability of a brief intervention and attendance at a weight loss programme when GPs facilitate a referral that requires patients to pay for the service. DESIGN AND SETTING: An observational study of the effect of a GP encouraging attendance at a weight loss programme requiring self-payment in the West Midlands from 16 October 2018 to 30 November 2018, to compare with a previous trial in England in which the service was NHS-funded. METHOD: Sixty patients with obesity who consecutively attended primary care appointments received an opportunistic brief intervention by a GP to endorse and offer a referral to a weight loss programme at the patient's own expense. Participants were randomised to GPs who either stated the weekly monetary cost of the programme (basic cost) or who compared the weekly cost to an everyday discretionary item (cost comparison). Participants were subsequently asked to report whether they had attended a weight loss programme. RESULTS: Overall, 47% of participants (n = 28) accepted the referral; 50% (n = 15) in the basic cost group and 43% (n = 13) in the cost comparison group. This was significantly less than in a previous study when the programme was NHS-funded (77%, n = 722/940; P<0.0001). Most participants reported the intervention to be helpful/very helpful and appropriate/very appropriate (78%, n = 46/59 and 85%, n = 50/59, respectively) but scores were significantly lower than when the programme was NHS-funded (92% n = 851/922 and 88% n = 813/922, respectively; P = 0.004). One person (2%) attended the weight loss programme, which is significantly lower than the 40% of participants who attended when the programme was NHS-funded (P<0.0001). CONCLUSION: GP referral to a weight loss programme that requires patients to pay rather than offering an NHS-funded programme is acceptable; however, it results in almost no attendance.